Oden's Patrimony

We three Ref Packers are all reading Thomas C. Oden’s beautifully written autobiography, A Change of Heart: A Personal and Theological Memoir, and will be posting numerous reflections on it, as well as making it the subject of a podcast.

Here is an interesting comment Oden makes early in the work (p. 56), referring to his abandonment of the orthodox Christian faith in which he had been nurtured in favour of radical left wing politics:

I have been asked why I abandoned my patrimony and why I sublimated so quickly all that I had earlier learned about classic Christianity.  It was because I loved the illusions and blithely ignored their consequences.

It is, of course, a standard criticism of Christianity that it sells people an illusion.  Oden’s early gurus, Marx, Freud, and Nietzsche, all made some version of this claim. Modern atheists never cease to throw this at the theists they despise. Yet, as Oden goes on to comment, his skepticism about classic Christianity was itself rooted in a general lack of skepticism about modern ideologies.

There is indeed an irony that the philosophies of modernity – those of Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud – all have a fundamental attitude of suspicion at their core.  For each of them, the world as perceived was not the world as it really was.  Class interests, manipulative morality, and sexual drives all served to hide reality.   Yet their adherents had – and have – minimal suspicion concerning their own premises.  

We live with the consequences: sexual anarchy, little concept of individual responsibility, and a chaotic understanding of human identity.  Ironically, the modern atheism that decries the distasteful consequences of theism is often oblivious to the disastrous consequences of its own ideology. Indeed, how pitifully ironic is it to read Christopher Hitchens slamming the evils of religion and then offering an apologetic for Trotsky?  And as to insinuations of the immaturity of religious faith, that world is surely risible which has degenerated into such litigious childishness and ethical nonsense that law courts are now required to decide which bathrooms elementary schoolchildren are allowed to use.  Yet the illusions persist.  Forgive me if I share Oden's suspicion as to why this is the case.